Officials give final notice to homeless sex offenders living in encampment

Authorities struggle to deal with sex offender camp, protesters say

By Liane Morejon - Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer, Terrell Forney - Reporter

After a camp of registered sex offenders was dismantled near Hialeah, they moved to an area between Miami-Dade's The Hammocks neighborhood and Miccosukee Tribe territory in the Florida Everglades, protesters said Sunday. Those offenders received what county officials are calling their last notice to vacate the area.

The protesters turned out with signs at the intersection of Southwest 88th Street and Krome Avenue Sunday. The encampment near the intersection of Northwest 71st Street and 32nd Avenue had some 300 registered sex offenders.

Rows and rows of tents line the streets -- each one home to sexual offenders who have few options when it comes to permanent housing.

Local 10 News' investigative reporter Amy Viteri reported on the area's entrepreneurs' safety concerns Aug. 23. 

"Miami-Dade County should be embarrassed because of what these people are living like," said Steve Grafton, owner of Grafton Furniture. "My wife, my daughter work here. I've already told all the employees they cannot be here after 6 p.m. because it’s just not safe."

Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, told Viteri in August that there were "some very serious and significant concerns" and social workers and police officers were offering the homeless sex offenders financial assistance and access to housing.

Registered sex offenders, whose victims were younger than 16, are required to live away from schools and day cares. Although state law requires them to live 1,000 feet away from a school, a 2005 Miami-Dade County ordinance raised the requirement to 2,500 feet. 

The offenders' deadline to move out of the camp in Hialeah was Sunday. Workers from Miami-Dade's Homeless Trust arrived Sunday night with police to give the offenders their eighth and final warning.

Most of the predators blame the tough county restrictions on their housing issue.

"Right now, what's going through my mind is, where am I gonna go?" one of the tent residents said.

The 34-year-old man said he thought a parcel of private land in Kendall was a likely option, but residents there protested any such move, and word spread the move would not be a county-sanctioned idea.

"We are not able to go over there because the owner of the property never knew there was people residing in that area," the man said.

County officials said they are assessing the needs of the remaining residents while reminding them that as of Sunday night, those living in tents could no longer stay.

"All that we can do, as we do with all the homeless people in our community, is try to find a place, and we even give them rental assistance -- up to six months of rental assistance if they can find a compliant address," Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp said.

"We're not going to let another encampment like this grow -- it's just not productive," said Ron Book, with Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

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